Speaker Event | Joint Program


In a manner unthinkable today, Justice William O. Douglas was a public advocate for the environment. Join us as Ninth Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown explores the politics and ethics of advocacy by a Supreme Court Justice. Judge McKeown’s book on Justice Douglas’s environmental legacy will be published in 2021.

Citizen Justice: The Environmental Legacy of Justice William O. Douglas

Program Partner

The Northern District Historical Society (NDHS) has been protecting and enlivening the rich judicial history of the court since 1977. The goal of the Society is to preserve, share, and enliven the court’s history with lawyers, educators, scholars, and students. To learn more visit their website here.

Date and Time (Virtual Event)

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.


  • Admission is free of charge; advance registration required (see below).

MCLE: 1 hr. of California CLE

  • Please check the box in the registration form below if you would like to receive CLE Credit.

Joint Membership Special

  • The NJCHS and the NDHS invite you to join their Societies and are offering a JOINT MEMBERSHIP SPECIAL — act now and join BOTH the NJCHS and the NDHS for $100 (normally $110!). Join now by selecting below and you will be enrolled in both Societies! Visit our membership page to learn more about member benefits.

Joint Membership Special

About Honorable M. Margaret McKeown

Judge McKeown was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1998. Judge McKeown was a White House Fellow in 1980-1981, serving as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior and Special Assistant at the White House. She was the first woman partner at Perkins Coie. Additionally, Judge McKeown has lectured and taught extensively on constitutional law, international law, human rights law, intellectual property, litigation, ethics, and judicial administration. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including most recently the ABA Margaret Brent Women of Achievement Award. She also has written extensively about Justice Douglas and has published articles about him in the Journal of Supreme Court History and in the Seattle Times.

About Justice William O. Douglas

“For myself it is a testing ground of my strength and endurance, a pitting of finite man against one of the great rigors of the universe. A man – or girl – can get to know himself – or herself- on the mountain.”

– November 6, 1954 letter to a Seattle schoolgirl, The Douglas Letters (1987)

In 1954, Justice Douglas hiked the entire 184 miles of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath.

Justice William O. Douglas was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Douglas attended Whitman College on a scholarship. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1925 and joined the Yale Law School faculty. In 1934, Douglas left Yale to join the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in a political appointee position, having been nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. By 1937, he had become an adviser and friend to the President and the SEC chairman. He was nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 20, 1939, at just 40 years old, he was one of the youngest justices appointed to the court. He is also the longest service justice in the history of the Supreme Court serving a term lasting almost 37 years.

In an interview with Felicity Barringer for the Stanford University website Judge Mckeown describes how Justice Douglas came to be an ardent environmentalist:

The awakening of his public advocacy came in 1954 when he learned that there was a plan to build a parkway to the C&O Canal, near Washington, D.C. He read an editorial in the Washington Post supporting the proposal and wrote a counter piece challenging the editors to hike with him to see for themselves why a parkway would be a travesty. They accepted the challenge. Douglas, along with nine companions, hiked the entire 184 miles of the towpath along the canal. Among those who finished with him was Olaus Murie, Director of The Wilderness Society and a noted wildlife biologist. They became close friends and collaborators. Though the Post editors weren’t among those who went the entire distance, the hike and Douglas’ advocacy changed their mind. The parkway was never built. A statue commemorating Douglas’ role and inspiration can be found at the beginning of the C&O towpath.


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